[Note: this story includes numerous references to, and artistic representations of, male genitalia. If that offends you, or if you’re the kind of joyless, shriveled soul who gets upset at juvenile humor, well, this ain’t the tale for you.]
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Ah, the Winter Olympics. The majesty of skis carving curls of powder into an ice-blue sky. The tense shriek of blades on ice. The awe-inspiring sight of three giant hooded naked dudes standing tall in the cold.
Yep. Butt-naked dudes. Or statues of butt-naked dudes, anyway. Look, this is going to take some explaining.
First, here’s a look at the statues from the navels up. One last warning; it gets graphic after this:
Now, in the last week, the world’s media has descended, bleary-eyed and stumbling, on PyeongChang. At the media nerve center, the first thing that greets them is this trifecta of statues, dubbed “Bullet Man.” That’ll wake you up. Crafted by South Korean artist Kim Ji-Hyun, “Bullet Man” represents, in the Google-translated words of local media, “human desire for [a] wonderful body, wealth, and honor in concrete images.” Well, yeah. Take a look at those dudes. They’re so ripped they make the greased-up Tongan flagbearer look, well …. American.
(“It is not easy to believe that the models of these bodies are claimed by Kim as his own body,” the South Korean newspaper added, in a likely true but still cruel jab.)
Not only that, they ain’t hiding a damn thing. Behold:
All right, then. Let’s get at this. It’s undeniable that this is the work of a highly skilled artist. It’s also undeniable that we are, as a species, a horde of overgrown middle-schoolers. Admit it, you giggled at the naked dudes, you’re going to share this on Facebook, and you’ve already shown that pic on your phone to anyone who’s around you. And you’re not alone.
Japan, for instance, has gone all in on Bullet Man. They’ve rendered him in latte foam:
They’ve started posing like him:
They’ve built him out of anatomically accurate Legos:
Oh, and hey, if you ever need a good dose of nightmare fuel, there’s this little video:
So in the interest of journalism — and the fact that the speed-skating event I was due to cover didn’t start for another six hours — I decided to hang out around Bullet Man and see how the world reacted to its glory. (Yes, some people travel halfway around the world to win gold medals and establish themselves as paragons of human athleticism. Me, I’m here to make male-genitalia jokes. My folks are very proud.)
The first thing you realize once you’re in their presence is that these statues are in fact actual statues, and not those fake streetcorner-performer jobs that come to life. That comes as a relief for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it’s awfully cold out here, and they’re awfully exposed. (Feel free to make “shrinkage” jokes as your experience warrants.)
The next thing you notice is that these men have large, rounded hoods atop their heads. Oh, sure, the artist can say they’re reminiscent of bullets, but we know what’s up. These are, symbolically speaking, penises with penises. A penisception, if you will.
So, anyway, we stood out in the Alpensia Ski Resort plaza and conducted a highly scientific study of 100 passersby, watching to see their reactions to Bullet Man. This wasn’t exactly a ball; there was a stiff wind kicking up, the kind of bone-chiller that makes you really put your head down. But we stuck it out, and after 100 folks went walking by, here’s what we totaled:
• 7: The number of people who glanced up at the statues.
• 2: The number of people who stopped to take photographs. (One of the two spoke no English, and the other had absolutely zero interest in being quoted talking about aluminum penises on a worldwide website. Surprising.)
• 1: The number of people who appeared to mouth “Wow!” when they saw the statues.
• 1: The number of statues that wobbled in the high wind. (For the record, it was the far-left one.) It moved, as George Costanza once said.
• 0: Number of selfies with the statues.
So there you go. A paltry two percent of subjects took photos of the naked dudes. Was the wind too cold to stop walking, or was this a case of profound penis indifference? (Note: “Penis Indifference” would be a hell of a name for a band. So, for that matter, would “Aluminum Penises.”) Whatever, it appears we’ve got a jaded lot here in South Korea. Perhaps your social group’s mileage will vary.
Oh, and one other note: this isn’t the only penis-related artwork in the vicinity of the Olympics. Not far from PyeongChang, there’s a spot known as Haesindang Park, or, unofficially, “Penis Park.” Why? Because there are penises there as far as the eye can see, friends:
According to local legend, the park honors a virgin named Haesindang, whose fisherman boyfriend left her on a rock while he fished. Alas, one day a storm came up, and she was swept away and died. After that, there was much mourning, but no fish. The locals grew desperate. And one day, a fisherman … you know what? We can’t even write what the fisherman did, but the upshot is this: Folks decided that the ghost of the swept-away woman liked seeing male genitalia, and so to accommodate her, the locals carved forests’ worth of penises. And guess what? The fish came back, and later, so did curious tourists. (Plenty more pictures of Haesindang Park right here.) A happy ending all the way around!
Anyway, that’s your penis-related Olympic content for the day. It all goes to prove the maxim known by every gold-winning athlete, from the Greeks of ancient days to the athletic icons of today: There’s no better place than the Olympics to let it all hang out.